If you have a parent, or close blood relative, who is
a high ranking member of your police department,
or he or she occupies an influential position in local
government, you will become a detective if that's
your desire. If you come from a family which is
politically well connected, your chances of becoming
a detective will improve immensely. If you're
female, drop dead gorgeous -- or close to it -- with
a flirtatious personally, and you don't have too
much similar competition, you too can become a
detective. As for the rest of you, you're going to
have to work very hard to become a detective.
Now...while some police departments may put
detectives into higher pay grades than police
officers, most simply change your title from police
officer to detective police officer or police detective.
Any monetary increase usually comes in the form of
a clothing allowance. Even if your elevation to
detective is not an actual promotion in authority
and pay grade, your department may well have a
formal selection process in the form of a written
examination and oral interview. A formal selection
process has two advantages. First, it makes
everybody participating in the process feel better
about their chances of becoming detectives.
Secondly, it gives the department cover when it
picks those already chosen. It's not a complete
waste of time though. If you join a relatively large
police department, and you wow them on the
interview, you could slip through.
Okay...now that brutal honesty is out of the way,
you know that you'll have to avoid cynicism as you
work toward your goal of becoming a detective. As
for your preparation to become a detective, your
patrol experience will be your best single training
ground for that preparation. Patrol will give you the
opportunity to experience every facet of police
work. Far too many police officers fail to appreciate
or take advantage of the patrol experience. Many
will drift toward areas of investigation and
enforcement which interest them while neglecting
others. While it's only human to do things that you
best like to do, or in which you excel, it's extremely
important for you to gain the widest and deepest
knowledge and experience in everything available to
In police work, there is nothing worse than not
knowing something you're expected to know. While
being a detective is a prestigious assignment, only
those detectives who possess knowledge and
experience also enjoy respect along with the
prestige. If you become a detective after the
proper preparation, you'll make few mistakes
initially, and any mistakes you do make will be minor.
When you do become a detective, your area(s) of
investigation may not be your choice or they may
vary. In a small police department, detectives will
likely be responsible for all types of investigations.
The larger your department and instances of crime,
it becomes more likely that you'll specialize in
certain areas of investigation. If your jurisdiction
experiences a high rate of homicides, your
department will have detectives solely committed to
homicide investigations. The same thing goes for
crimes like rape, robbery and burglary.
If your department has you investigating all types
of crimes, it's not a bad thing. However, it's all
about volume. When incidents of particular crimes
reach certain numbers, specialization becomes a
matter of necessity rather than choice. Never
forget that the more prior experience you have in
investigating all types of crimes, the easier it will be
for you to perform at a high level of efficiency in any
area of specialization.
Here's the most important thing for you to
remember. Don't be in a big hurry to get out of
patrol. You'll see some police officers who obviously
have the connections to move all over the place
spending little time in any one place. While such
movement may be good for a resume, it doesn't do
much for their depth of knowledge and experience.
If you really want to excel as a detective, you must
obtain as much knowledge and experience as
Above all...don't get discouraged when you're
denied assignments simply because you haven't
connected with the right people. Look at me. For
twenty years as a police officer, I couldn't get close
to a detective unit. In the end, I commanded three
squads of detectives.
I always shudder and shake -- just a little -- when I
think back on how naive I was when I began my
police career. As you contemplate a police career,
you're naturally going to take great interest in the
opportunities that will be available to you. For many
of you, the goal of becoming a detective will be one
of those opportunities of most interest.
Perhaps it's the culture; wherein, television and
movies depict detectives as the true cops with the
guys and girls in blue uniforms as background for
the real action. While becoming a detective is a
worthy goal for you, you should not be
disappointed when you find out that just being a
good police officer and investigator is not enough
for you to capture that position. In fact, you'll see
excellent police officers and investigators who never
seem to make the grade.
If you think that if you enter your police career
already possessing education, prior training or
experience in criminal investigation, you'll have an
advantage in becoming a detective, you'll be
incorrect. While education and background
experience certainly won't hurt you, neither will it
help you in getting a detective's badge. A police
department isn't any different from any other
"If you're female, drop dead gorgeous -- or
close to it -- with a flirtatious personally, and
you don't have too much similar competition,
you too can become a detective."
~ Barry M. Baker
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